Senators president Cyril Leeder acknowledged in an interview that the club would have had to make it to the second round of the playoffs to break even this year. Ottawa lost in the first round to the Pittsburgh Penguins, who were subsequently upset by the Montreal Canadiens.
While he said the Senators don't discuss financial details, Mr. Leeder admitted the club felt a hangover at the gate thanks to 2008-09's disappointing season. That year the team missed the playoffs for the first time in 12 years.
“The factors are pretty straightforward,” he said. “(When you miss the playoffs) your season ticket base typically trails for one year. So if you have a bad year, you’ll often see that follow on during the next season. And conversely, if you have an improvement in the year, you’ll see that carry into the next season as well.”
He also said the tepid first half of the season was far more concerning, from a gate standpoint, than a final half that drew much more enthusiastic crowds.
Attendance for the last 11 home games averaged more than 19,000, he said, and all three playoff matches were sellouts.
“We’re expecting a bit of a lift next year,” he said, adding that season ticket renewals currently sit at 90 per cent – up from 78 per cent at the beginning of last season. “We’re optimistic that we’ll have improved attendance.”
He added the team finished 10th in overall draw in the 30-team league during 2009-10.
A 2009 Forbes report valued the Senators at US$197 million, listing 2009 revenues of $90 million and player expenses of $57 million. The team lost around $4 million that year, according to the report.
According to CapGeek.com, the Sens have $50.2 million tied up in player salaries for the 2010-11 season, with 19 players signed. That currently leaves the team $7.395 million below the league salary cap.
Mr. Leeder said the club plans to market itself actively this summer to woo even more potential ticket buyers.
“We’re going to try to be as active as we can in the community, as often as we can. We’re out at a lot of fundraisers every summer,” he said.
Mr. Leeder added that a strong concert and special events season at Scotiabank Place helped offset the hockey club's loss for Senators Sports and Entertainment.